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Fargo Mayor Candidates: Arlette Preston

Last Word | May 18th, 2022

Arlette Preston

She’s lived in Fargo for 45 years, and currently resides in Downtown Fargo with her husband.

“We don’t eat at home much and because the restaurants are so accessible here, we can walk to them easily. So we spend a lot of our time out on the sidewalk talking to people and you know, that’s the other thing about being Downtown is you get to know your neighbors, it’s kind of amazing. Because you see them all the time. It really feels like a neighborhood here. It’s just nice being out, you see the business owners and you get to know everybody. We’re outdoors as much as we can.“ ”Weather permitting,” she laughs.

Arlette believes that her background will lend a unique mixed experience to her mayorship. She served on the Fargo City Commission from 1992–2000 before transitioning into running her private business for 16 years. She was reelected to the Commission in 2020.

“I’m coming with not only the public servant kind of background and experience but also running and managing a business, so I come with financial management perspective, personnel management, project management.”

She has remained engaged with her community over the years. Her experience with restarting the Fargo Downtown Neighborhood Association is what led her to a neighborhood focus for her campaign for mayor.

She’s focused on both the old and new neighborhoods. For the old neighborhoods, Arlette calls attention to the problem of single family homes that are being converted into rental housing, many of which are owned by absentee property owners. These neglected homes can often bring down the surrounding neighborhood.

New neighborhoods, on the other hand, also require careful stewardship.

“With the Diversion coming in, we’re going to have to be very intentional about how we develop out to the Diversion. We have probably only 40 years of development before we hit the Diversion and then we’re basically landlocked. so there’s some major implications about the financial sustainability of this city. We have to develop that right or we’re going to create problems for future generations.”

Housing accessibility and building a strong workforce were the main themes throughout my conversation with Arlette. For example, Arlette explained that in Fargo we have an upside-down home ownership rate. Around 40% of our population owns a home, whereas nationally 60% of the population owns homes.

“There are people that really want to own homes that can’t, so I’m working on trying to make sure that home ownership is accessible and affordable.”

If 60% of Fargo citizens are not homeowners, then where are they living? Arlette talks about the rental situation that many of our citizens find themselves in.

“Those that are working in the service industry, and are probably on that lower income scale, they are starting to have trouble finding rentals that are affordable for them. So there’s a gap there that we need to be addressing. We are embarking on a housing study to try and quantify what that is and hopefully then try and target some of our incentives and use some other tools to address that.”

This housing policy ties into Arlette’s views on creating an open and inclusive community.

“City Hall needs to be very aware of how we need to interact with individuals who may have a very different background and we need to be open and accessible to those individuals, as well as hopefully providing an environment where they feel safe and can find housing that is stable for them as well as jobs.”

“(Childcare) is another really big thing I keep hearing about as I am going around to different groups. We lost, I think, 3 large institutional childcare centers that closed (during Covid). We definitely have a childcare issue in our community where people aren’t able to access (childcare) and it’s oftentimes very difficult to afford it. It’s an issue that needs to be on the table and discussed and we need to figure out how do we support our workforce by getting childcare centers stabilized and more of them in place.”

“Those are some of the things that I’m interested in. You know, I’ve worked with the current mayor for 2 years now, and he and I have agreed on a lot of things, but he’s been there for years and I think it’s time for a change, and to start looking at some additional challenges that we are currently facing. They are issues that I have been working on, it’s just that I would take it to a higher level and a stronger focus and put some of our resources and our incentives in place to help get some of that done. That’s why I’m running.

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